Beauty

Dr. Boyce: Kevin Hart and His Issue with Dark-Skinned Women

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by Dr. Boyce Watkins

Comedian Kevin Hart both astounds and impresses the h*ll out me.  I can’t say that he’s ever really made me laugh all that much, but he’s clearly one of the brightest entertainers in Hollywood.  It seemed that he came out of nowhere, like the meteorite that slammed into Russia just a few months ago. And, like that meteor, Kevin has had an impact, becoming one of the biggest things to hit black Hollywood since the emergence of the afro puff.

In the midst of all this success, and the money that comes with it, there is that thin line between comedic risk and political correctness.  Back when almost no one seemed to be paying attention to Hart, political correctness didn’t matter.  He could say what he wanted, and as long as his words got attention, he was better off because of them.  But now that he’s black America’s most beloved comedian and a one man corporation, sloppy language can come back and bite him right in the assssss.

For Hart, the latest thorn in his side is the Twitter comment that just won’t go away.   About three years ago, Mr. Hart decided to take his jokes to a place where they don’t need to go: to the land of the color complex.  The comedian, maybe while tweeting over a beer or two, decided to make a joke about dark-skinned black women, stating that he (jokingly) believes that light-skinned women have better credit than dark-skinned ones.

Said Kevin: “Light-skinned women usually have better credit than dark-skinned women….Broke a** dark hoes….lol”

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Of course, the backlash against Hart was fierce, and he immediately responded by reminding readers that he’s a comedian and that his job is to make jokes. He also pushed forward his claim that black women were being sensitive by expressing their justifiable outrage over his remarks.   Why am I bringing this old issue up?  Because Hart has finally made a public statement addressing the issue.

Years after the original incident, during an interview with Ebony, Hart made what appears to be a bit more of a formal apology (well, sort of):

“The repercussions for saying certain words are harsh, and careers have been shut down. I can understand how people could be affected by certain words and slurs. I get it. My way of showing respect is to not play around with it, not mention it, not joke with it at all. I understand how serious it is.”

Translation:  “I’m sorry for saying what I said, but it’s not as if I really care about this issue enough to formally apologize.  However, since I’m a hot comedian right now and don’t want you to stop giving me your money, I won’t ever make a joke that offends you this much again.  I know what happens to comedians who say things like this in public, and I definitely don’t want that to happen to me.”

I was honestly disappointed in Kevin’s response to this issue.  A statement like this one might have been more appropriate:

“I want to express my most sincere apologies to all of those I’ve disrespected with my careless remarks, especially my beautiful black sisters.  I will also deeply reflect on why I would say something so hurtful and damaging to others, particularly since I am a dark-skinned man myself.”

In fact, the apology above should be issued by nearly every hip-hop artist on the radio and those of us who’ve decided that it’s OK to turn the words “black woman” into “b*tch,” h0e” and every other derogatory word in the book.  I’ve been criticized for being an “angry black man” for most of my life (which might be why my bosses wanted to fire me at Syracuse University), but if I were a black woman, my anger level would be off the charts.

I agree with Hart that black women, as a collective, are incredibly sensitive.   In many ways, the hyper-sensitivity is justified by growing up in a world that hates them and insists on leaving them at the bottom of the social totem pole.  Black women are considered by many to be less attractive across the board, and all too often, they receive the greatest degree of disrespect from the very men who are supposed to protect them.  Dark men like Hart have become fashionable over the last 20 years, and having a little money and status is a great way for men like Kevin to mate with women who can give them babies with the complexion they deem to be most attractive.

Hart’s remarks, while clearly problematic, lead me to wonder if he himself is dealing with a bit of self-hatred.  Hart doesn’t exactly have an Obama-like skin-complexion, and I don’t think I’m the only one who is curious about the fact that a man so dark could say something so nasty about other dark-skinned people.    This is not to say that Hart is a jerk or that he doesn’t deserve all of his success.  But it does say that these comments are probably the biggest professional mistake he’s made since he decided to star in the movie “Soul Plane.”

Whether or not women accept Kevin Hart’s apology is a personal matter. But I hope that he doesn’t use the protective cloak of artistic freedom to justify commentary that is both disturbing and psychologically-damaging to his own people.  I also hope that as he apologizes to the millions of fans he’s offended with his remarks, he starts with the women in his own family.

Kevin, “you da man” right now, you really are.  But being the king of the comedy world does not give you a license to disrespect the women who raised you, nor does it give you the right to sweep these comments under the rug.  Brother, I sincerely hope you will issue an authentic, thoughtful and heart-felt apology.  You owe black women at least this much for all that they’ve given to you.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and author of the book, “Black American Money: How Black Power Can Thrive in a Capitalist Society.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.